When Bookninja was founded in 2003, the blogging and social media landscape was very different from today. The news sources we found were established papers still, most not behind paywalls or riddled with opt-ins and advertising. If I woke up early and saw something had happened overnight, I was seeing this on The New York Times, the Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, or even the much destroyed Globe and Mail. Now, much of this reliable news is locked away behind paywalls and news aggregators like Bookninja rely on alternative sources for free links. Thankfully, sources like CBC, BBC, Guardian*, etc. remain open and largely free (but for how long?), but they are often slower in terms of posting the news than places like Twitter and FB. Why? Because they do research to verify their news. So, yeah, it takes a moment for things to appear. Turns out, I am an old man who has missed years of on-the-job social media-journalism training, and yesterday I got caught (along with many others) on the Alice Munro hoax by that douchebag Italian journalist who makes this sort of false news his infamy bread and butter. Once I found out it was a prank I updated the various platform posts with corrections and apologies, and then later in the day pulled it all down. But the damage was done on Twitter where the news spread quickly, like a fire in a poetry shop, and soon enough Alice Munro was trending worldwide. I was pissed off, mostly on her behalf (I’m used to looking the fool by now). Imagine being an elder who people are using their age and the not-unlikely prospect of their coming end to prove a point. That’s shitty. But all that said, the guy has a point. I woke up bleary eyed and saw people I trusted posting that Munro had passed and I went to Twitter and saw what looked like an M&S account (logo and some believable groundwork back posts) tweeting that the news had been confirmed by her daughter (who I am also pissed on behalf of), and while I hadn’t planned to post on Remembrance Day, I thought, Damn, this is big news, so I fired off a post, embedding the tweet. Anyway, I didn’t do due diligence because I was interested in speed, not accuracy. Not something I’m going to do again. So in a way, this asshole’s asshole stunt HAS improved things. I just wish people like him (IE, people who think they’re doing good on a societal level but are really in it for their own notoriety and have no actual moral compass when it comes to how their actions impact individuals) could find another way to shake us out of our social media stupor. We all need to do better, even the trolls.
*FTR, I donate occasionally to the Guardian to help keep it open and free, but sites like this one are a losing game when it comes to money (and time!) and I can’t sustain that forever.